Spring training games have commenced, and the Phillies still have six pitchers in their starting rotation, a predicament that may cause some unrest if they're unable to trade someone before the April 2 season opener at Citizens Bank Park.
But, at least one starter has volunteered to go to the bullpen.
Brett Myers, the 26-year-old right-hander with ace potential, told the Philadelphia Inquirer he informed general manager Pat Gillick in the offseason that he's willing to become a closer if the rotation remains crowded. At this point, though, the scenario hasn't been seriously discussed.
"I like starting because I have a routine," Myers said. "But closing gives me a chance to get in the game every day. I like that, too. I think I could do it. I think my arm bounces back pretty well. But, on the other hand, I'm used to starting."
The Phillies still intend to deal a starter - most likely, right-hander Jon Lieber - during spring training for additional bullpen help. But Gillick has said repeatedly that he won't give away a starter for less than fair value.
Left-handers Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer and right-hander Freddy Garcia aren't candidates for the bullpen, and the Phillies think right-hander Adam Eaton needs a few innings to build the velocity on his fastball. Lieber, a poor fielder, isn't suited for a relief role.
Myers, however, appears to have the mental makeup to be a closer. He could either share save chances with closer Tom Gordon, or Gordon could revert to the eighth-inning role in which he excelled for two seasons with the Yankees.
"If they need me to do it this year, or even sometime in the next couple of years," Myers said, "yeah, I think I could do it."
Meanwhile, Myers has something else on his mind for the 2007 season. He's got a photo of four-year old Juliana Wetmore taped to his locker. Wetmore, who resides near Myers' home in Jacksonville, Florida, was born without half the bones in her face, a defect known as Treacher Collins syndrome. Myers, who received a three-year, $25.75 million contract extension in February, has pledged to donate $100 per strikeout (and no less than $20,000) to help pay the medical costs incurred by the family due to Wetmore's 23 operations.
"I feel like she's kind of mine," said Myers, who has a healthy 4-year-old daughter, Kylie, and a 2-year-old son, Kolt. "I couldn't handle it. I don't know many people strong enough to do it."
Notes From PBN
LHP Fabio Castro will pitch in relief in spring training. Several Phillies officials believe he can be a starter, but manager Charlie Manuel thinks he can contribute to the team more immediately as a reliever.
RHP Joe Bisenius most likely will start the season at Triple-A Ottawa. But the Phillies have identified him as their top relief prospect and believe he will be pitching out of their bullpen at some point in 2007. Bisenius, 24, had a breakout season last year, posting a 1.93 ERA in 35 appearances at Class A Clearwater and a 3.09 ERA in 16 games at Double-A Reading. Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle said Bisenius is on track to soon make his major league debut.
"It's always nice to hear something like that," Bisenius said. "For me, personally, I think I can help the team (right away). But you have to be realistic. There are only so many spots. You just want to go out there and force them to make a decision."